Republican congressman Cory Gardner of Colorado is headed to the U.S. Senate next year after defeating Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, the Associated Press projects.
After Republican coups in South Dakota, West Virginia, Montana, and Arkansas, Gardner's victory marks the GOP's fifth pickup of the night. The party needs to win six seats to gain Senate control.
During their fiercely contested race, Udall went after Gardner for his past support of a state-level personhood amendment, which would have banned abortion and many forms of contraception. While Gardner abandoned his support of that amendment in Colorado, he continued to support federal personhood legislation throughout the campaign, although he claimed -- contrary to both supporters and opponents -- that such legislation was only of symbolic value. Many observers, including the Denver Post editorial board and some within the Democratic Party, chided Udall for what they deemed an excessive focus on reproductive issues. (Colorado voters rejected a personnhood amendment for the third time this year, the AP also projects.) Though Republicans may cast Udall's defeat as a rejection of the Democrats' "war on women" narrative, Gardner's assiduous efforts to divert attention from his right-wing views on reproductive rights underscore the Democrats' success in controlling the terms of debate on the issue.
Gardner's win comes just two years after Colorado appeared to be trending blue. In 2012, the state awarded its 9 electoral votes to President Obama and also voted to legalize marijuana. In 2013, Gov. John Hickenlooper won plaudits from gun safety activists for signing robust gun control measures in the wake of a mass shooting in the Denver suburb of Aurora. Hickenlooper finds himself in a tight race against GOP challenger Bob Beauprez tonight.